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Three Muslim Siblings Were Kicked Off A Plane After A Passenger Claimed They Were ISIS Members

The British siblings said they were interrogated on the tarmac at a London airport after a passenger saw Arabic text on their phones.

Posted on August 24, 2016, at 12:44 p.m. ET

Sakina Dharas, a Muslim woman in the UK, claimed that she, along with her brother and sister, were kicked off a plane in London and interrogated by armed officials on the tarmac, after a passenger accused them of being ISIS members.

Sakina Dharas
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Sakina Dharas

Ali Dharas
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Ali Dharas

In a Facebook post on Monday detailing the incident, Dharas, who is a pharmacist in London, said that the siblings were on their way to Europe for a holiday when they were hauled off their flight and interrogated for an hour after a passenger saw Arabic or "Praise be to Allah" on their phones and claimed they were members of ISIS.

Facebook: sakina.dharas.9

Dharas, 24, told Al Jazeera that she, her sister Maryam, 19, and their brother Ali, 21, were on their way to Italy on Aug. 17 for a weekend getaway when a flight attendant led them out of the EasyJet flight on to the tarmac, where they were met by "gun-wielding policemen and men in suits" at London's Stansted Airport.

In her Facebook post, Dharas said that the agent began by asking them if they spoke English, and after assuring him that they were born and bred in England and spoke only English, the officer said, "A passenger on your flight has claimed that you three are members of ISIS," adding, "They saw you with Arabic or praise be to Allah on your phone."

After explaining to the agent that the Arabic phrase was part of the Qur'an and did not signify allegiance to the terrorist organization, Dharas said, "We've had nothing on our phone remotely Arabic related this morning." She also explained that since the siblings were Indian by ethnicity, they did not converse in Arabic. Dharas told Al Jazeera that the only Arabic on her phone was part of an app that featured verses of the Qur'an and that wasn't open at any time.

She said that her brother explained that the siblings had volunteered in orphanages for victims of ISIS during their pilgrimages abroad. The agent continued to probe them about their personal and professional details, including their social media accounts. Dharas said the MI5 agent made her go through her passport details, which included her Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia and a trip to Iraq.

According to Dharas, the agent told them he had done checks on them as soon as the passenger made the allegations. When she asked him why he then needed details from her, Dharas said that the agent told her, "Oh be sure that I'll be doing more research on you, and if anything comes back, I'll be here waiting on your return.'"

"This questioning lasts about an hour, and definitely includes absolute babble from me about how I work for the NHS, how I couldn't possibly be more British and hardly even affiliate with any other culture let alone TERRORIST ORGANISATION?!" Dharas wrote, adding that the officials apologized for the "inconvenience" and let the siblings back on the flight.

She said the officials told them "we are all on edge" and had to respond to such threats as the accusers were very "frightened."

"What are my rights?" Dharas said on Facebook. "We would only have been allowed back on the plane if there wasn't a shred of doubt on their part, so someone must be the liar here, in which case, why were those passengers not removed for wasting police time, LYING, making false allegations and racial profiling?"

Dharas noted that only she and her "hijab clad sister" were accused by the passenger who did not realize that their "white-skinned, green-eyed brother" was with them. "I was extremely nervous and embarrassed," Dharas told Al Jazeera. "I thought, shouldn't they [the agent and police officers] be coming up [on the plane] with us, to show the other passengers that we hadn't done anything wrong, to say, 'Don't worry, it was a misunderstanding?'EasyJet confirmed the incident to BuzzFeed News in a statement saying, "Following concerns raised by a passenger during the boarding of flight EZY3249 from London Stansted to Naples on 17 August 2016, a member of ground staff requested the assistance of the police who took the decision to talk to three passengers at the bottom of the aircraft steps, before departure."The airline said that the siblings re-boarded their flight after they were "cleared to complete their journey." "The safety and security of its passengers and crew is our highest priority which means that if a security concern is raised we will always investigate it as a precautionary measure," EasyJet said. “We would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused to the passengers." Dharas did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News' request for comment.
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Dharas noted that only she and her "hijab clad sister" were accused by the passenger who did not realize that their "white-skinned, green-eyed brother" was with them.

"I was extremely nervous and embarrassed," Dharas told Al Jazeera. "I thought, shouldn't they [the agent and police officers] be coming up [on the plane] with us, to show the other passengers that we hadn't done anything wrong, to say, 'Don't worry, it was a misunderstanding?'

EasyJet confirmed the incident to BuzzFeed News in a statement saying, "Following concerns raised by a passenger during the boarding of flight EZY3249 from London Stansted to Naples on 17 August 2016, a member of ground staff requested the assistance of the police who took the decision to talk to three passengers at the bottom of the aircraft steps, before departure."

The airline said that the siblings re-boarded their flight after they were "cleared to complete their journey."

"The safety and security of its passengers and crew is our highest priority which means that if a security concern is raised we will always investigate it as a precautionary measure," EasyJet said. “We would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused to the passengers."

Dharas did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News' request for comment.

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